December 01, 2009

Immigrant Finds Path Out of Maze of Detention

Holding tight to her sister’s hand in the bustling streets of New York’s Chinatown last week, Xiu Ping Jiang looked a little dazed, like someone who has stepped from a dark, windowless place into a sunny afternoon.

In a sense, she has. For a year and a half Ms. Jiang, a waitress with no criminal record and a history of attempted suicide, was locked away in an immigration jail in Florida. Often in solitary confinement, she sank ever deeper into mental illness, relatives say, not eating for days, or vomiting after meals for fear of being poisoned.

With no lawyer to plead for asylum on her behalf, she had been ordered to be deported to her native China, from which her family says she fled in 1995 after being forcibly sterilized at age 20. Too ill to obtain the travel documents needed for the deportation to take place, she was trapped in an immigration limbo: a fate that detainee advocates say is common in a system that has no rules for determining mental competency and no obligation to provide anyone with legal representation.


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Update: The above article was a response to the previous New York Times Article on mental illness and immigration.


Mentally Ill and in Immigration Limbo


By NINA BERNSTEIN
Published: May 3, 2009

Twice the immigration judge asked the woman’s name. Twice she gave it: Xiu Ping Jiang. But he chided her, a Chinese New Yorker, for answering his question before the court interpreter had translated it into Mandarin.

“Ma’am, we’re going to do this one more time, and then I’m going to treat you as though you were not here,” the immigration judge, Rex J. Ford, warned the woman last year at her first hearing in Pompano Beach, Fla. He threatened to issue an order of deportation that would say she had failed to show up.

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